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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Reading Room:
J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator, Ch. 6: do you doodle?

a.s.
Valinor


Apr 16 2007, 2:51am

Post #1 of 17 (837 views)
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J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator, Ch. 6: do you doodle? Can't Post

My chapter discussion is scheduled to start tomorrow, however due to time contstraints I am going to post the first one tonight. I won't be able to post again until Tuesday night, but there are lots of interesting topics still open in the RR and this is a short (though interesting) chapter. I will probably only do a post a day; however, I definately will be tangential...reader forewarned.

Cool

Tolkien liked to, well...doodle. He drew all the time, on scraps of paper, envelopes, and old newspapers. Sometimes these little drawings were labelled and thus show us the relationship between the little drawing and his legendarium. But sometimes (often) they were just patterns. He liked elaborate, colorful, repetetive designs. Very intricate and precise. In fact, they are little pieces of artwork, and not just mindless "doodles", Here is an example of designs drawn on an old newspaper:



(sorry, that's a scan, I can't find it online quickly).

Question:

Do you doodle? Why? When? Are you brave enough to share a picture?


Here's a picture of doodling from a total non-artist (ie: yours truly):




Doodling is a very common activity, at least at meetings I attend. And it's interesting that, like Tolkien, I have particular designs I return to again and again. I always presumed it was my total lack of artistic ability that makes me repeat these patterns, but maybe not. Doodling has interested scholars as well, and I am SHOCKED to find out that my repeated spirals and stars actually mean...well, download this guide and see for yourself.

Here is another interesting page from the BBC on "Doodle Analysis".


Question:

Regardless of whether you agree with anything in that guide (and I personally am not sure I meet any of those profiles except BORED AT MEETINGS), can you speculate on why certain designs caught Tolkien's fancy? Why he returned to them again and again?


Chapter 6 opens with these words:

"In this book we reproduce some two hundred paintings and drawings by Tolkien. Remarkably, for he was a busy Oxford professor, writer, and family man, these represent less than one-quarter of his surviving art, including rough sketches and scribbles. He was a surprisingly prolific artist, especially in his retirement years from which about a third of his drawings can be dated. Most of these later works are brightly coloured patterns and devices drawn by Tolkien purely for his own pleasure. That he had long enjoyed pattern-designing is evident in works such as the exuberant friezes in The Book of Ishness, the 'stamps' on his Father Christmas letters, and his several Trees of Amalion. Now in his later years, he drew decorative rather than illustrative designs almost exclusively".

In this week's posts we'll look at these designs and patterns, search for some possible influences, and discuss how he worked these designs into his legendarium in the forms of heraldic devices and other Elven-related objects (belts, rugs, etc). I'll also go out on a few tangents and discuss other kinds of art composed of repetetive designs.

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Some say they're going to a place called Glory, and I ain't saying it ain't a fact.
But I've heard that I'm on the road to Purgatory, and I don't like the sound of that!
I believe in love, and live my life accordingly,
And I choose: let the mystery be.
~~~~Iris DeMent


Penthe
Gondor


Apr 16 2007, 3:10am

Post #2 of 17 (623 views)
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Intricate patterns indicate obsessive types? [In reply to] Can't Post

Well, I think we could all agree that Tolkien was a wee bit obsessive about a few small items?

I love the patterns that Tolkien drew. The developed heradic ones on the dust jacket of my edition of the Silmarillion are wonderful. They look like (and reading Hammond and Scull actually have) they have grown organically in Tolkien's mind to represent things about the characters that he can't necessarily put into words. And it's not that he's so dusty at putting things into words either.

The Luthien one is all lily leaves and petals, curving lines and gentle blues and greens. The Feanor one is fiery and jagged. Like the Silmarils, they are something distilled to beautiful simplicity.

The wonder is, for me, not so much that Tolkien did anything other than create all this stuff. The wonder is that anyone could ever get him to talk about anything else, since so much of his mind was clearly absorbed in building his world and everything in it.

I doodle intricate patterns too, incidentally. But not so beautiful, and usually only in one colour. Mine are all swirly and curvy and interlocking. Sometimes little people get caught up in them. I don't have a scanner so I can't show you any.


Beren IV
Gondor


Apr 16 2007, 4:06am

Post #3 of 17 (619 views)
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Yes, I doodle, [In reply to] Can't Post

but unfortunately I have no scanner with which to share an image.Frown

Once a paleontologist, now a botanist, will be a paleobotanist


Smokering
The Shire

Apr 16 2007, 4:36am

Post #4 of 17 (609 views)
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*cough* Asperger's syndrome *cough* [In reply to] Can't Post

I love Tolkien's doodles! His art in general, actually; it's exactly the kind of art I'd do if I had more time and a great deal more talent. I like how he uses patterns to simulate shading, instead of actual shading; and I like the stark geometry of many of his works. He's spiky... almost Asian, somehow. He draws like someone who loves ink for its own sake, and some of his drawings look like complicated hieroglyphics--almost as if he *wrote* the picture, if that makes any sense. And his calligraphy is gorgeous. Calligraphy is one of the few arts I actually practice from time to time, because I find it soothing and am constantly fascinated by the kinds of thick/thin curves one makes with a calligraphy pen. Small things...

Anyway, I look at his doodlings and giggle, because that's exactly what I do. When I was at Uni, I used to fill up entire backs of handout sheets with complicated, abstract cornelli patterns, or cross-hatched basketweave patterns. Sometimes I'd draw people, or things--actually, fish were a common theme, wonder what that symbolises?--but I preferred making a weird geometric shape and shading it, or drawing a sphere, or making a spirally, twining border. Very autistic, now I think about it. And it helped me think during class (yes, I took notes too). Used to fascinate my classmates, they thought I was nuts.

Not so keen on his paisley, though. Hate paisley, always have.

Sooo, to answer the question... I'd put it down as a combination of autistic tendencies (which delight in pattern, detail and repetition), and a way of unlocking his brain to help him think--whether about Middle-Earth or work or whatever! But that's just from my own experience.

Incidentally, one odd thing I've noticed is that I can only ever write the book I'm (mostly not) writing when I do calligraphy. Computer? Doesn't work. Normal handwriting? It's possible; but the forced slowness and beauty of calligraphy works best for me. It makes me concentrate harder, like I'm writing something worthwhile (that can't be deleted at the touch of a button!), and shouldn't break the visual beauty of it by a word in the wrong place. Don't know if any of that has to do with Tolkien, though. Certainly a few authors used to write their manuscripts beautifully--Beatrix Potter and Lewis Carroll come to mind. What did Tolkien's MS for LOTR look like? Is there a surviving copy? I know his Father Christmas letters were gorgeously written and presented, but of course that was different. But it's hard to imagine a man so in love with words wouldn't take the trouble to write them nicely... his little 'JRRT' signature thing shows he was capable of having fun with letters, anyway. Anyone know?

'Kay, that was a longer rant than I expected. I'm glad to see this discussion, though! 'Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator' is one of my favourite books in its own right, and Tolkien's love of doodling and patterns makes him seem delightfully accessible to someone like me.

He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative. --GK Chesterton

There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one's grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past. --GK Chesterton


Curious
Half-elven

Apr 16 2007, 6:16am

Post #5 of 17 (623 views)
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I do make elaborate doodles; however I don't keep them. [In reply to] Can't Post

I also rarely doodle in several colors as Tolkien seemed to do; maybe two at most, if I happen to have two different pens handy. But some of my doodles are quite elaborate, particularly those made as I am forced to sit for several hours in a mind-numbing deposition which is for the most part a complete waste of time for everyone involved. I do have to pay attention, since something interesting could happen; but I can easily pay attention with half my mind while doodling. Some of my doodles are easily as elaborate as the results of this google search:

http://images.google.com/...&sa=N&tab=wi

I am skeptical of any analysis of doodles, and consider any analysis of Tolkien's doodles highly speculative. What's most interesting to me is the fact that he collected them! He was quite the packrat.


(This post was edited by Curious on Apr 16 2007, 6:18am)


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Apr 16 2007, 7:31pm

Post #6 of 17 (601 views)
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I could never share my notes in college [In reply to] Can't Post

because they were covered with princesses and frogs and unicorns and in one case, a Turkish band consisting of a drummer and a zurna player. Here's a link to a deck of cards I made out of my recurring doodles:

Doodle Deck

The one in the lower left corner is the summit of Longs Peak. I hope the others are recognizable.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chance Meeting at Rivendell: a Tolkien Fanfic
and some other stuff I wrote...
leleni at hotmail dot com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Wynnie
Rohan


Apr 16 2007, 8:42pm

Post #7 of 17 (630 views)
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compulsive doodler here [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Do you doodle? Why? When? Are you brave enough to share a picture?


I doodled all through high school and college, hoping my teachers wouldn't assume I wasn't paying attention (I found it easy enough to do both). When I tossed my old notebooks, I saved some of my favorite doodles. Your question inspired me to dig up and scan a sampling for your amusement. Like Aunt Dora, I could never lend my notes as is; I'd copy them over if asked. I still often doodle at meetings, as long as I'm in the back of the room and can do it without being obvious. Sometimes I sketch people in the room; sometimes I draw from my head.


In Reply To
Regardless of whether you agree with anything in that guide... can you speculate on why certain designs caught Tolkien's fancy? Why he returned to them again and again?


I'm not sure doodling has much of a why. If you like drawing, and you're sitting there with pen & paper handy, you do it. And you return to the same subjects or patterns in order to perfect them -- you never get it just right on the first try.

I love that Tolkien actually doodled on a newspaper! I guess paper was harder to come by in those days. Let's hope the rest of the family was through reading it.





Túrin Bears Gwindor to Safety
(detail)
by Ted Nasmith



Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Apr 16 2007, 9:03pm

Post #8 of 17 (582 views)
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Wow, Wynnie, those are beautiful! [In reply to] Can't Post

They remind me of Beatrix Potter for some reason, small and detailed and precise.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chance Meeting at Rivendell: a Tolkien Fanfic
and some other stuff I wrote...
leleni at hotmail dot com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Modtheow
Lorien

Apr 17 2007, 3:57pm

Post #9 of 17 (579 views)
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Last Friday's meeting [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I doodle. Especially if the meeting is a long one and I'd rather be somewhere else.



Usually, my doodles aren't quite as intricate as this one. Typically, I start outlining agenda items in circles and boxes and build a design from there. In last Friday's department meeting, though, my mind was screaming to get out of there, and I had to sit through 2 and a half hours of time-wasting arguments. I wonder what I would have done through the Council of Elrond.

I suppose you could think of Tolkien's opening sentence of The Hobbit, written while grading papers, as a verbal doodle.

I've also had the incredible experience of reading one of Tolkien's manuscripts (notes for an essay, not LotR), and finding a very faint doodle in pencil written over some lines of writing. It was more than just shapes, though -- it was a very faint sketch of a head with a wizard-like cap. Totally unexpected, totally wonderful.


Aunt Dora Baggins
Immortal


Apr 17 2007, 4:58pm

Post #10 of 17 (573 views)
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That is really magical. [In reply to] Can't Post

It has a dream-like quality. Do you know what it "means", what you were thinking of when you drew it?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chance Meeting at Rivendell: a Tolkien Fanfic
and some other stuff I wrote...
leleni at hotmail dot com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


a.s.
Valinor


Apr 17 2007, 5:44pm

Post #11 of 17 (563 views)
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ya know, this makes my doodle [In reply to] Can't Post

look PATHETIC!!!!

Cool

a.s.

"an seileachan"

Some say they're going to a place called Glory, and I ain't saying it ain't a fact.
But I've heard that I'm on the road to Purgatory, and I don't like the sound of that!
I believe in love, and live my life accordingly,
And I choose: let the mystery be.
~~~~Iris DeMent


GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Apr 17 2007, 6:00pm

Post #12 of 17 (559 views)
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The Council of Elrond [In reply to] Can't Post

is waaay more interesting than my department's staff meetings.

I don't doodle often, but lately for some reason I've worked on my penmanship in meetings, writing out names of people there and topics on the agenda.

~~~~~~~~

I used to be GaladrielTX, but it's springtime and I'm shedding.



Modtheow
Lorien

Apr 17 2007, 6:19pm

Post #13 of 17 (564 views)
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I think it means... [In reply to] Can't Post

Dear God! When can I get out of this meeting!


Modtheow
Lorien

Apr 17 2007, 6:50pm

Post #14 of 17 (572 views)
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Tolkien's handwriting [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To

Certainly a few authors used to write their manuscripts beautifully--Beatrix Potter and Lewis Carroll come to mind. What did Tolkien's MS for LOTR look like? Is there a surviving copy? I know his Father Christmas letters were gorgeously written and presented, but of course that was different. But it's hard to imagine a man so in love with words wouldn't take the trouble to write them nicely... his little 'JRRT' signature thing shows he was capable of having fun with letters, anyway. Anyone know?



In Verlyn Flieger's book, A Question of Time, she reproduces a page of Tolkien's writing with a doodle (looks more like a scratchy bunch of lines). I don't have the book in front of me, but if I remember correctly, the doodle is supposed to be evidence of Tolkien working out some ideas on time that he'd been reading about. It's not one of his pretty designs. If I also remember the page correctly, there are bits of handwriting, some of it more neatly formed than the rest. If anyone has the book with them, you can check out the page to test my (usually poor) memory to see if I'm recalling this correctly. I can't think of any other published facsimiles of his handwriting: can anyone?
Tolkien's LotR manuscripts are in the archives at Marquette University. I've only seen a few pages briefly on exhibit, but I have seen some of his other manuscripts at length. When he's writing out a good copy of something, his handwriting is very easy to read: very regular and neatly formed letters. But when he's working on drafts of things and revising, his handwriting degenerates to an illegible scrawl. It's really, really difficult to pick out the words. Sort of like trying to pick out what he's saying when he's talking -- I was listening to the BBC video of an old Tolkien interview last night, and I had to replay it several times to catch all of his words; he talks fast and mumbles, at least to my ear. That reminded me of trying to read some of his writing. Whenever he writes in Elvish script, though, it's absolutely beautiful, and a complete contrast to his rapid, everyday script.



Alraune
The Shire

Apr 18 2007, 9:30am

Post #15 of 17 (546 views)
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There are a couple of samples in various HoME volumes [In reply to] Can't Post

 
...espeically the later ones, IIRC. Either the publishers got more enthusiastic or the technology improved, or both, but in the later volumes they went to the expense of including some half-tone (I think it's called?) plates reproducing pages of his manuscripts.

Some are in his lovely Elvish script, but others are in English. Christopher Tolkien describes them exactly as you did -- they start off careful and lovely (fair copies, CT calls them, and fair they are indeed), then after a few pages some new idea takes him and he begins to write faster, less carefully, until by the end they are virtually indecipherable. What an incredible effort it must have been to transcribe it all.

I'd like to try to scan a page but I can't right now; as usual, I should be doing something else! But maybe later in the week, or someone might find one?

and he found more contentment in those days than in any others of his life, though he did not know it until he looked back long after when old age was upon him. -Tale of Aldarion and Erendis




Daughter of Nienna
Grey Havens


Apr 18 2007, 8:09pm

Post #16 of 17 (536 views)
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There are samples in [In reply to] Can't Post

JRR Tolkien, Artist and Illustrator: Chapter 5 The Lord of the Rings there are several images with his handwriting. Most of them are alittle too small to read the words.

If you don't have the book, let know I can scan a few images to post. I can even enlarge them fot better legibility.


Chapter 5 The Lord of the Rings
plate numbers:

#152, Untitled (Doors fo Durin)
already posted by Lúthien Rising:
http://www.warofthering.net/...ien/Untitled-155.jpg

#161
Helm's Deep & the Hornburg (the most legible, wrtten upside-down on image)

#170
untitile (Minas Morgul Gate)

# 171
Shelob's Lair

#174
Untitled (Tower of Kith Ungol)

#175
Plan of Farmer Cotton's House (faded, or mabe bleed-threw from other side of page)


There are others in the chapter on Childrens art: These were more intended to be read by others:

plate numbers:


#65
'Father Christmas' Envelope

#68
Christmas 1933
(a full page letter, intended to represent Father Christmas's handwriting)

#80
Untitled (Mr Bliss Collides with Mr Day)

#81
Untitled (Archie, Teddy, and Bruno)

#83
Untitled (Mr Bliss on the Hillside)

It looks like the writing on all the Mr Bliss images, are to represent the actual writing of the books' story...perhaps to go to the publisher for print.


Maps:
plate numbers:
#86, p93
Thror's Map

#86, p94
Thror's Map, copied by B. Baggins

#84 (chapter 4 opening)
Wilderland, preliminary art


Enjoy

...

Art Gallery Revised, Aloha & Mahalo, Websites Directory

Nienna: “ those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope . . . All those who wait in Mandos cry to her, for she brings strength to the spirit and turns sorrow to wisdom." — Valaquenta


Alraune
The Shire

Apr 19 2007, 7:14pm

Post #17 of 17 (672 views)
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here's one [In reply to] Can't Post

It's not a very clear scan, I'm afraid. This is the first page of the first draft of LotR, from HoME 6. The writing is beautiful. And is already harder to read by the end of the page.




and he found more contentment in those days than in any others of his life, though he did not know it until he looked back long after when old age was upon him. -Tale of Aldarion and Erendis



 
 

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